Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What Men Can Learn from Barack

For the past two weeks, I've received the same email: an essay by JeneƩ Desmond-Harris titled "What Single Women Can Learn from Michelle." In her piece Harris discusses how many intelligent, professional, successful Black women dismiss perfectly good guys for superficial reasons. This is not something we haven't heard before. In fact, Harris notes, "The idea that things are hard for Black women who want to date Black men who match us in academic and career success is a well-worn cultural narrative." But her point is the reason Michelle Obama is now the First Lady of the United States is because she overlooked the small stuff - the odd name, the goofiness, the oversized ears. Instead, she focused on things far more important: Barack's goodness, his warm smile. (The fact that Barack was a Harvard Law grad probably didn't hurt either). Michelle saw the big picture. Now she's married to the most powerful man in the world.

Harris' essay was so popular that there was a followup essay written by a man. In his essay, "What Single Women Can't Learn from Michelle," David Swerdlick gives us a list of things to consider before the next man passes us by. He suggests that Black women stop comparing men they meet to Barack, stop looking at how much money someone makes, stop dismissing men for not being perfect or ideal and try dating outside the race.

But I have to disagree when Swerdlick says, "we're [Black men] not letting a winner slip past us just because her ponytail is tucked up under a ball cap."

I cannot tell you how many beautiful, intelligent, professional, successful, philanthropic Black women I know who are definitely "winners" yet, they somehow "slip past" successful Black men because they were not of a certain hue or a certain size. (and should I even mention hair?)

This is what Black men can learn from Barack: Stop looking for Halle Berry and start looking at the good - someone who will be by your side, have your back through it all. Smart, confident, ambitious, Michelle was a great catch. She was the prize, a winner and Obama knew it.
But Obama is a rare man, a special kind of guy. As many of us know from experience, there are some Black men, who, once they become successful, no longer think Black women are good enough for them, let alone a woman with beautiful brown skin.

The fact is many Black women are single, not because we are superficial, but because men are. For example, I remember one of my male colleagues telling me he didn't think Oprah was all that because her nails looked jacked up. What? You're dismissing the most influential woman in the world because of...her nails? Another male colleague, a 40-something entrepreneur, often laments how he can't find the right woman. I suggested one of my good friends, a definite "winner." He said she wasn't his type. What's your type I asked? He pulled out a picture of his ex-girlfriend who looked like the late R&B singer Aaliya. Then there's my former co-worker, now in his mid-50s, never married, who refuses to date women whose dress size is more than one digit. Speaking of dresses, a man I once dated didn't like the clothes I wore. He thought I dressed too conservative, old. He wanted me to show a little skin. He missed out on a "winner."

Even Harris admits in her essay, that men can be superficial, "We expect men to resist what society tells them about ideals when it comes to us — God, help the brother who admits a preference for skin or hair displayed on every magazine cover; or the arrogant fool who holds out for his own Clair Huxtable, not acknowledging that The Cosby Show was fiction."

Let's face it. Men seem to have an upper hand in this. They have choices we don't. A young man once told me at a party, "I'm a Black man with a college degree, no kids and a good job. I can be choosy." I couldn't argue with him. He was right.

But as Harris accurately writes in her essay, Black women "who do seek to have relationships with black men of similar circumstances might need to open up a little... we must start to question our assumptions about what our ideal really is."

My ideal? At this point, I just want someone to hold my hand; a hug would be nice too.

What about you?
What are your thoughts on this issue?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Nine Commandments of Joel

Okay the Joel I'm speaking of is not a prophet or some obscure disciple in the Bible, though he may think his commandments are biblically based.
The Joel I'm referring to is a 41-year-old Black man I saw on "Divorce Court" today.

Joel's 27-year-old wife wanted to divorce him after just three months of marriage. 3 months.
She couldn't handle his "rules."

Here are the Nine Commandments of Joel:
1) What I say goes
2) Must have sex when I want it
3) The woman must take care of the kids
4) The woman must keep a clean house
5) The woman must have a job
6) When I go out, the woman must stay home
7) No Back Talking !
8) No riding in my car
9) Any questions? Refer to Rule #1

Joel's commandments were posted on the refrigerator. You know, just in case his wife forgot what they were. He told the judge that he learned how to treat women by observing his grandfather. His grandmother, he said, did whatever his grandfather told her to do. She knew her "place."

The women today, Joel said, needed to go back to the "old ways." He said that every woman needs rules. He told the judge that he's "training" his daughter, teaching her that she has to obey her husband when she gets married. He's also teaching his son that a man is suppose to "run the woman."

Did I mention that Joel doesn't work? He's on "disability" for a back problem. Yet, his disability doesn't seem to keep him out of the clubs where he parties until the wee hours of the morning.

But I digress.

Joel's young wife said he laid down his rules only a few minutes after they said their wedding vows. She didn't know what she was getting into. Marriage, said Joel, means the "Man is No.1. She belong to me." For some reason he had a hard time understanding that a wife was not property.

When the judge noted that most women today would not accept his antiquated way of thinking, he said "somebody will."

Unfortunately, that's true. Joel will find someone else.

Tell me: What do you think of "Joel's 9 Commandments?"
Do you think women need to go back to the "old ways"?
Would marriages last longer?